The Shrine of Nahum is associated with the biblical prophet who was born in alQosh (though it may have been another town by the same name). The key is kept hereditarily by a Christian man named Nasir.
The site has a long history. At some points alQosh did not have its own Jewish population, and the rooms around the shrine were shops and services for Jewish pilgrims, more like a caravanserai. (When the campus became too full during the pilgrimage that took place during Shavuot, then the local Christians would take the Jews into their own homes and host them as guests.) Other times there was a handful of Jewish families in alQosh and it would have served their little community.
קבר נחום Tomb of the Prophet Nahum is associated with a synagogue and shrine in alQosh. The shrine is actually a campus with various areas, structures, and rooms.
In the morning, whilst my servants were loading, I visited the tomb of Nahum the Elkoshite. The building in which the remains of the prophet, whose glowing and sublime strain of prophecy must have animated with hope and comfort the exiled tribes of Israel, are interred, is a low insignificant building. The tomb itself is covered with a common wood box, and a calico canopy is spread over it. The interior of the mausoleum is oriented with the names of innumerable rabbies who have performed pilgrimages to this revered spot, and I was assured by the natives that there were few Jews in Mesopotamia who did not once in a year come to worship at the shrine of this admirable seer, who denounced destruction and ruin "to him that imagined evil against the Lord. Stern (1848), p 112; in alQosh
Quite close to one of the mountains is a large court, in the middle of which stands a spacious building, consisting only of one room, capable of containing about 1000 persons. There are two entrances into this building, which was intended for a Synagogue; but, standing at it does without a community, it presents but a strange appearance. In this desolate Temple on a spot, parted off by railings, is a catafalque, covered with tapestry worked in gold, and ornamented with various coins, above which is a costly canopy. This is said to be the tomb of the Prophet Nahum. ... Benjamin de Tuleda [p. 53] mentions the Synagogue of Nahum as being in Mosul; I however found it here. He likewise states [p. 68] that the tomb of Nahum is 6 hours' journey from the tomb of the Prophet Ezechiel at the place of Ein-Schifta. Benjamin II (1859), p 71
After lunch, visited the tomb of the Prophet in a small church underneath the mountain. it is a small round tomb, covered with Persian cloth. Prime 1859, p 266; 18 November 1856
Visitors enter into a commons with an open-air courtyard. It seems that initially the shrine itself would have been a minor structure, which was then expanded and then the courtyard was built to accommodate a campus of related activities to serve the Jewish community's religious and general needs. Additionally, there is a shrine associated with Nahum's sister.
You enter from the south into a forecourt, then into a spacious courtyard.
The south side has a small forecourt between the entrance into the courtyard and the courtyard itself. Also, more substantially, the south side is composed of a wall of the shrine itself, and features the grand entrance into the shrine space itself. On the west side is a mini courtyard, and there is an L-shaped building on the north and east sides.
There is a mini, elevated courtyard with a shrine of his sister and a fig tree.
Several rooms and a basement.
On a roughly north-south axis, with a south door opening onto the street and a north door opening into a courtyard.
Within the square shrine, there is a central sarcophagus surrounded by over a half-dozen vaulted spaces.
Inscription of Mosheh Barzanihin
Full stops (periods) seem represented by a colon-like symbol.
|Line 3||.אורך שלח להר קולשי||Length sent Mount Kulesha.|
|Line 8||משה ברזאניהין||Mosheh Barzanihin|
There is a small upper inscription.
|Line 1||כנדב ניתי בית ז כוללר||Note: ז כוללר is an uncertain transcription.|
|Line 2||מכון לשבתך עולמים|
|Line 3||שנת גאולת עולם|
The larger lower inscription.
|Line 6||על מלאכת הקדש|
Festival of Weeks
From Tanura I went to Alkusch, where I arrived in 1848, two days before the Feast of Weeks. ... The Jews from Mosul, Aruel, Arbil, Kirkuk, from the Kurdistan mountains and from a still further distance of eight days' journey round, annually assemble a week before the Feast of Weeks for a ceremony, at which they spend 14 days in religious exercises. The Armenians lodge them for this period, and even give up their own houses to them, and live themselves during this time in the courtyards and on the terraces. I myself was a witness to these ceremonies, and can vouch for the truth of my statement. Benjamin II (1859), p 71-72
During the time of the pilgrimage, a Jewish attendant is entrusted with the care of the Synagogue; during the rest of the year the keys are confided to a Christian woman of the place, who attends to the ever burning lamp of the sacred tomb. It is she, likewise, who admits and accompanies the pious travellers, who wish to prayer at the tomb of the Prophet. The Elder is Moses Zellem of Mosul. Benjamin II (1859), p 74
The pilgrims bring their manuscripts of the Law with them, and deposit them in the holy shrine of the Temple. The women then enter the chamber of the Prophet; and after this the service begins. First the Book of Nahum is read aloud from an old manuscript, which is laid upon the catafalque; when this is finished, they make a solemn procession seven times round the sacred shrine, singing sacred songs. After the seventh round, a hymn is sung addressed to the Prophet, the chorus of which is, "Rejoice in the joy of the Prophet Nahum!" — the initial letters which commence each verse follow in alphabetical order. Then come the women who do not understand Hebrew, and recite the prayers translated for them into Arabic or Kurdish, and then dance singing round the catafalque. This ceremony is gone through enthusiastically, and lasts for about an hour. Benjamin II (1859), p 72
On the first evening of the Feast of Weeks, 5th of Sivan, they assemble in the Synagogue, which is lighted by about 1000 lamps, and enter the chamber of the Prophet, when service begins. Those who are read, pray; the others listen with devout attention. This solemn proceeding has nothing particularly important in it; and as soon as it is over, they go without further ceremonies into the sacred house, where a festive and general entertainment takes place at which coffee is plentifully served. Benjamin II (1859), p 72
At break of day, morning prayer is recited; and then the men, bearing the Pentateuch before them, go, armed with guns, pistols and daggers to a mountain in the vicinity, when, in remembrance of the Law, which on this day was announced to them from Mount Sinai, they read in the Thora [sp?] and go through the Mousaph prayer. With the same warlike procession they descend the mountain. The whole community breaks up at the foot, and an Arabic fantasie, a war performance, begins. The picturesque confusion, the combatants, their war cries, heard through the clouds of smoke — the clashing of weapons and the whole mimic tumult presents a fantastic spectacle, which is not without a certain dignity, and makes a strange impression on the spectator. This war performance is said to be a representation of the great combat, which, according to the belief in those parts, the Jews, at the coming of the Messiah, will have to maintain against those nations who oppose their entrance into the promised land, ad the formation by them of a free and independent kingdom. The women who remained behind in the town come singing and dancing to the accompaniment of a tambourine to meet the men, and they all return together. Even the followers of others creeds take a part in this jubilee festival of their guests, which moreover is to them a matter of pecuniary advantage. Benjamin II (1859), p 72-73
The return to the Synagogue took up nearly half a day; as they often stopped by the way and renewed their warlike games. When at length they reached the Synagogue, the Pentateuch, which they had taken with them, was replaced to the holy shrine; after which began near the catafalque the usual service for the Prophet. That finished, all returned to the town, to rest themselves after the exertions of the day. Benjamin II (1859), p 73
At Vesper time, the customary divine service was performed in the Synagogue; and afterwards all went out of the town to a place of amusement lying at the foot of the mountain. There the men drank and gave way to merriment, while the women danced to music performed by the Armenians; and alms for charitable purposes and gifts for the preservation and embellishment of the chamber of the Prophet, poured richly in. When the day closed, all hurried back again to the Synagogue, in order to perform the Arwith prayer. Benjamin II (1859), p 73-74
The belief in miracles is here almost general, and numbers many worshipers. Here the pilgrims bring their sick, and shut them up alone in the Prophet's chamber; if they surmount the fear so natural in such solitude, their cure is considered certain. For a superstitious patient such a night is often attended with he worst results; for, as tradition says, at midnight a movement is said to be perceived in the catafalque, and a large figure arises from it, who in a hollow sepulchral voice addresses the paitent: "What dost thou here, and what is they desire?" — If the patient ventures to reply to those words without fear, he is cured instantaneously; in the other case however, he is lost. To everyone in good health it is strictly forbidden to stay at midnight in this place. I wished to convince myself as to what had given rise to this superstition, and for that purpose took advantage of the tumult and confusion of the evening to furnish myself with everything necessary to oppose or prevent any imaginary fear as well as any real danger which might threaten me, and then concealed myself beneath the draperies with which the catafalque was covered. As soon as I was alone I quitted my concealment; took the manuscript, which is ascribed to the Prophet Nahum, and began to examine it; it contains nothing but the prophecy which is to be found in the Bible. — I felt myself very uncomfortable, and often ceased reading, fancying that I heard a suspicious noise, or a slight movement. Soon however I recovered my moral courage, and went on reading until I had finished the whole The night seemed me interminably long, and I was at some trouble to resist the drowsiness which almost overcame me; for this purpose I began to read in a book of Psalms. Whether the oil of the lamps caused my head to ache, or the atmosphere of superstition in which I had lived during the last months, exercised its power on my imagination, — I felt that my ideas became confused, and rambled on without control. In these moments I really fancied I saw the mysterious tomb move, and spectral shapes pass before my mind, which however gradually disappeared. At last midnight struck, — my heart beat violently, and my whole frame trembled, while a profound sleep began by degrees to take possession of me. Thus I lay until early the next morning, when I was awakened by the devotees who entered the Temple, to resume the solemnities of the day. They gathered round me full of curiosity, and assailed me with questions as to what I had seen, and how I had spent the night. I answered however that it was forbidden me to disclose the events of the night and that nothing would ever induce me to betray the secret, the knowledge of which I had acquired. I really believed that I did right in not robbing these people of this almost single prop of their faith; but towards their Chachamim I was not reserved; but related to them the whole truth. The people of the country spoke afterwards very much of the services which I had rendered in the matter of the Prophet, in having surmounted the dangers to which so many had fallen victims. Benjamin II (1859), p 74-75
Connection to the Biblical Nahum
We next went to the so-called grave of Nahum, who in holy writ is styled "Nahum the Elkoshite," though it is very doubtful whether this is the site either of the prophet's birth or burial. The building is the property of the Jews: they come on a pilgrimage hither once a year during the month of May from Mosul and the surrounding villages, and generally pass a week here in praying and feasting. A Chaldean who acts as guardian (for no Jew resides at Alkôsh) showed us the interior of the edifice, which is nothing more than a plain room, with a flat roof supported by several arches. The tomb occupies nearly the centre of the apartment, and consists of a wooden box, covered with green cloth, and enclosed within an ornamental marble screen. On the tomb I observed several printed copies of Nahum's prophecy, and on the wall beyond a long inscription in Hebrew. The identity of this spot with the Elkosh of the prophet is believed by Christians generally, the Chaldeans only excepted. In my booyoorooltu, or safe conduct, which I had obtained from the Pasha, it was styled the "grave of our lord Nahum." Badger 1852, p 104-105; of trips in 1843 and 1850
Benjamin II, 1859
Prime, Samuel Irenaeus. 1859. The Bible in the Levant: Life and Letters of the Rev. C. N. Righter, Agent f the American Bible Society in the Levant. Google Books<\/a>
Badger, George Percy. 1852. The Nestorians and their Rituals. Google Books<\/a>